Jesus said to them: "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while" (Mark 6:30).
One of my favourite books begins with the simple statement: "Life had been getting increasingly hard, so I ran away."
The writer, David Adam, formerly vicar of Lindisfarne, goes on to recount how he went out and started climbing a hill in an attempt to regain perspective – only to find that a storm was approaching.
"In a while I reached the summit, climbing over a great heap of stones into a Bronze Age fortress," he continues in his book, The Cry of the Deer. "I sat in this great circle of stones to get my breath back...The storm went to the north and south, but it did not come over me. In that ancient circle built to protect ancient man, I suddenly felt protected. I was surrounded by the presence and power of God."
That seems to me to be a pretty good picture of Jesus' invitation to his disciples in Mark 6:31, as we continue our fortnightly pilgrimage through this Gospel, to "come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while".
Many Christians – especially, but not only, those of us in "full-time" ministry – need to re-discover what Jesus is talking about here.
I say many Christians – but possibly not most. "The vast majority of professing Christians," lamented JC Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool, writing on this passage as long ago as 1857, "are indolent and slothful, and do nothing for the world around them".
We might feel he's being a little harsh. But maybe he also has a point: perhaps for some of us the challenge is what we are doing for Christ. Is our faith akin to an add-on leisure activity – a bit of church here or there, if we have time? If so, perhaps we really do need to re-think our priorities.
There's no doubt, however, that in the context of Mark 6, the disciples had indeed been very busy for Jesus, having earlier (verse 7) been sent out on a preaching tour with "nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belts". No wonder they needed a break! But how does this work in practice today?
We can find rest in Christ daily: JC Ryle, having chided lazy Christians, has this advice for the over-worked. He says: "They should remember that to do a little, and to do it well, is often the way to do the most in the long run."
More recently, Jeremy McQuoid writes: "How much time are you spending simply in Jesus' uncluttered presence, allowing Him to give you spiritual and emotional rest?" And contemporary Christian thinker Dallas Willard spoke famously of finding "Sabbath moments" during the day.
We can find rest in Christ weekly: Jesus proclaimed himself "Lord of the Sabbath" and freed it from petty rules, restoring its rightful purpose. Early Christians felt able to move this day of rest from Saturday to Sunday to mark the resurrection – but some 21st century believers seem effectively to have done away with it altogether.
Do you need to re-build church into your Sunday routine, maybe shut off e-mails that day, steer clear of shops – and, having worshipped, then pray and even nap? RC Sproul writes: "As we keep the Sabbath, we are to celebrate the rest and peace we have in Jesus Christ and look forward to the day when we will have eternal rest in God our Father."
I remembered David Adam's words recently – on holiday, lying in bed, yet feeling tense about things far away, as the rain pounded down on our caravan roof. I remembered, and I relaxed – and I slept deeply that night.
The Rough Guide to Discipleship is a fortnightly devotional series. David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now serving as an Anglican minister in Sussex.